Mightier Than The Pen

Making The World A Bitter Place

Inventor of Mosquitoes ‘Very Pleased’ with Results

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Dr. Vlad Drake seems to be a mild-mannered, almost absent-minded man, exchanging pleasantries and technical errata with colleagues and underlings at his lab in Oak Park, Michigan. Simply looking at him, the casual observer could never know that this man practically invented what we know as the modern mosquito.

In ancient times, midges and biting flies did a decent job of spreading blood-borne diseases, but in the industrial age and the  humanity boom that the world has seen in the last several centuries, new methods of human population control became necessary.

Governments tried two world wars and several worldwide epidemics of disease – notably the cataclysmic influenza outbreak in the teens and twenties of the last century – with only mixed success. It reached the point that only the Soviet Union under Stalin and Cambodia under Pol Pot seemed to be the only post-WWII societies actively trying to kill off large sectors of its human population in any systematic way.

Clearly, a new approach was needed, and, bizarrely, Dr. Drake was the one to provide it. At first he didn’t intend to invent a flying insect that transmits malaria, dengue fever, West Nile Virus and many other pathogens – he was simply trying to develop a toy for his pet frog. But when the potential for disease transmission became clear, Drake shifted gears and began taking out patent after patent. Today there are 41 different genera of mosquito that account for about 3,500 different species.

That may sound like a lot, but the vast majority of them do not actually transmit disease. Those reflect the experimental prototypes that eventually led to the two flagship groups on Drake’s resume, the Anopheles genus and the Aedes Aegypti species, which together menace humanity with dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever, contributing to millions of deaths each year, mostly in African and Southeast Asia, where human population control is most crucial.

“Nazi Germany killed about thirty million people in six years, but it brought complete destruction to Germany as a result,” noted Saul Honigman, an epidemiologist at Mt. Sinai Medical Center in New York. “But Drake has enabled the use of a tiny fraction of those resources, and, with just a little patience and intelligent placement, has given us a ridiculously cheap method for efficiently ridding the world of millions upon millions of unnecessary people.”

The genius of Drake’s invention, said Hugh Jass, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, lies in its self-sufficiency. Mosquitoes do not need to be rearmed or recharged, and move under their own power. They feed on readily available plant nectar from flowers. A second element of genius, Jass noted, lies in “the mosquitoes’ ability to move vast distances while expending minimal amounts of energy, because they weigh so little.”

Drake himself deflects much of the credit, though he does revel in recounting many details of his pursuits, such as naming so many of his creations after his ex-wife, Marcia Anopheles. “As pleased as I am with my mosquitoes – and I am very pleased – I only developed a delivery system for diseases that have always been around,” he said, noting that the pathogens themselves took much more time and effort to create than his whining, flying pest. “When [David] Livingstone created AIDS in the African jungle more than a hundred years ago, that was a stroke of genius. Everyone else was trying to attack the human body directly, but he realized all you had to do was weaken its defenses and let nature take its course.” He further noted that AIDS in effect redeemed a slew of previously failed attempts at creating disease, destroying human immunity enough to allow those erstwhile failures to overcome the weakened defenses and kill the victim. “That guy really should have been awarded a Nobel” Prize for Medicine, contends Drake.

Drake is still working on developing newer versions of the mosquito, including one that can make its high-pitched whine audible from up to a hundred feet away. He foresees it being especially useful in helping landlords get rid of squatting humans.

Please Like Mightier than the Pen on Facebook. Say, there’s a mosquito on your – SMACK! – there you go. Oh, ew – it must have been full. You might want to get that cleaned up.

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Written by Thag

September 5, 2012 at 3:40 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Golly, what will they think of next to get rid of us? Sending sneezing toddlers into crowded buildings? There are some pretty nefarious mad scientists out there…

    Lorna's Voice

    September 5, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    • Mad? But he seems such a pleasant fellow.

      Thag

      September 5, 2012 at 8:48 pm


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